Strozzapreti is a type of Italian pasta, literally meaning “Priest Choker”. The background on this pasta is quite interesting, almost all negative towards the clergy. Some say it’s named after the fact that these pasta are so good that gluttonous Priests can’t help but choke themselves on it. Another interpretation is that these pastas are used as partial payment for land renters, and the renters would be pissed off from the fact that their wives would have to make these pasta that they would wish that the Priests would choke on them. Food history is awesome.

I came across a photo for this recipe from Food and Wine, and I was instantly drawn to it due to the fresh and bright colors from the pasta. It’s definitely one of those recipes that you start at noon and eat for dinner. First some ground lamb is cooked until brown in a pot, then removed with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Next some chopped fennel, onions, and garlic is sweated in the lamb fat left over from browning the lamb. I’m pretty obsessive about chopping my vegetables the same size, since it helps them cook evenly. Also it’s a good way to practice knife skills.

While the vegetables are sweating, I made the spice seasoning for the lamb out of fennel, cumin, black pepper, and chili flakes. The recipe said to toast them and then wrap them in cheesecloth, and once the sauce is done, you take the entire spice bundle out. I went a different route, and grounded the spices up after toasting them. I added the spice mix to the sauce directly, and I didn’t think it was over seasoned.

Once the vegetables are properly browned, the spice mix, smoked sweet paprika, and crushed tomatoes are added to the pot. Harissa, a north African hot chili paste is also added to the vegetable mixture; you can find it at Central Market or African specialty stores.

After letting the tomatoes, spices, and vegetables are stirred in the pot for a minute or two, broth and lamb are added back into the pot and simmered for about 1 hour covered, and 1 hour uncovered. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The final pasta dish consists of fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh mint, chopped scallions, and grated Pecorino, a sheep milk based cheese.

When you are ready to serve, the pasta should be cooked until al dente, per it’s package instructions, and the fresh vegetable mix are stirred into the sauce along with the al dente pasta.

Finally, I shaved Percorino cheese all over.

I served the pasta with a simple bibb salad, Italian bread, and the left over Pecorino cheese, and of course, red wine.

Strozzapreti With Lamb Ragu Recipe: